I woke covered with sweat. Although I couldn’t find sleep anymore, I remained lying on the hard, damp mattress, listening to the silence. Outside, the town was asleep, but I could feel her breathing, the very soft groaning of living beings dreaming together. The window was wide open. There was nothing between me and the outside night except an old mosquito net dangling from the window frame. The lack of streetlights made the room dark yet familiar, like an old coin in your pocket whose shape and touch you know without needing to see it. I finally rose up and crossed the room to the window, avoiding carefully the stool and the jar of water standing at the foot of the bed. I pushed aside the mosquito net and sat down, my back leaning against the window jamb. The air was slightly more fresh and breathable here. As I lit a cigarette, the moon suddenly appeared out of nowhere and showed me the bare street at my feet.
I smoked my cigarette slowly and silently, still listening to the sleepy town, then lit another one. The street was empty, except for a man coming from the plaza, walking quietly along the white crumbling wall. Then, all of a sudden, another man sprung out of the shadow of a porch. He looked rather small and fragile, and was wearing a palm sombrero. As he hurried to catch up with the first man, there was a flash of moonlight in his right hand. I held my breath as they both stopped walking, the short one facing the back of the other, who was standing without a movement. They were talking, but too softly for me to hear what they were saying. I imagined the fear of the tall one, the cold touch of the unknown weapon at his back, and hoped they wouldn’t see me staring at them.
Then the tall one turned around, and I clearly saw the large machete the short one was holding. To my surprise, the tall man lit a match and held it close to his eyes, looking as if he wanted to burn himself. The light made him squint, and the other one forced his eyelids open with two of his fingers, standing on tiptoe, with the threatening machete still in hand. The flame burned the fingers of the tall one and he dropped the match, leaving the moon as the only source of light. Then another match was struck, and the strange scene replayed itself. This time the one with the machete grabbed the other’s sleeve and forced him to kneel down, then brought his weapon close to the eyes of the man. For a split second I thought he was going to kill him, but then he had let him go and had vanished into the darkness, as if he had never been here at all. Alone in the dark street, leaning against the wall, the tall man was holding his head in his hands, stumbling and falling like a newborn. He staggered along the street, and then was gone too.
I lit another cigarette, listening to the silence.